What If Schools Taught Kindness?

Students who show kindness for others are calmer themselves

As a mindfulness practitioner and teacher, I’m very excited to be leading an in-service day for local teachers this month.  We want to develop a kindness curriculum for their students. An article in Mindful summarizes the benefits of mindfulness and kindness – or “kindfulness” as the phrase seems to be taking hold.

Laura Pinger and Lisa Flook took “a 12-week curriculum to six schools in the Midwest. Twice a week for 20 minutes, pre-kindergarten kids were introduced to stories and practices for paying attention, regulating their emotions, and cultivating kindness.”  Their initial findings suggest that this program can improve kids’ grades, cognitive abilities, and relationship skills.

Why teach kindness to kids?

  • school is stressful
  • kindness build connections among students, teachers, and parents
  • it can transform the school environment without formal policy changes or administrative involvement

I encourage you to read the details for yourself, but here’s a quick summary of the concepts taught:

  • Attention. Students learn that what they focus on is a choice.
  • Breath and Body. Students learn to use their breath to cultivate some peace and quiet.
  • Caring. Think about how others are feeling and cultivate kindness.
  • Depending on other people. Students learn to see themselves as helpers and begin to develop gratitude for the kindness of others.
  • Emotions. What do emotions feel like and look like?
  • Forgiveness. Young kids can be particularly hard on themselves—and others—and we teach them that everyone makes mistakes.
  • Gratitude. Role playing to recognize the kind acts that other people do for them teaches thankfulness.

Results show promise

This was a small study with promising results. Teachers’ ratings showed that

  • Students who went through the curriculum showed more empathy and kindness and a greater ability to calm themselves down when they felt upset
  • Students who experienced the curriculum shared more often than those who did not
  • They also earned higher grades at the end of the year in certain areas (notably for social and emotional development)
  • They showed improvement in the ability to think flexibly and delay gratification, skills that have been linked to health and success later in life

I’ll be watching the follow-up studies closely as I work with our local schools to see how we can bring the gifts of mindfulness and kindness to students and their families.

Mindfully yours,

 

Dr. Pamm